61. Alfie Plant Wins The European Amateur

2nd July 2017

England’s Alfie PLANT yesterday won the European Mens Amateur Championship at Walton Heath Golf Club.

This was no ordinary victory either. The quality of the event and venue, the nature of the win and it’s timing even surpassed Plant’s win at the Lytham Trophy last year.

The European Amateur had an exceptionally strong field, expected to be the fifth best in amateur golf this year.

Plant, who is 25 next Thursday, shot rounds of 72, 66, 67 and 68 for an impressive 273 (-15) total. His birdie on his 72nd hole will live long in the memory as he forced his way into a play off with Italian pair Luca CIANCHETTI, the defending champion, and Lorenzo SCALISE, both of whom bogeyed the 18th in an exciting finale in Surrey.

Plant and Scalise (both Even) saw off Cianchetti (+1) in the initial three hole aggregate play-off before the Englishman birdied the 2nd sudden death play-off hole to secure the most prestigious win of his career. Plant did not miss a shot in the play-off and can now look forward to competing in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in a few weeks time.

Alfie Plant (Photo: GolfBible)

Plant’s win, like Harry ELLIS’ last week at The Amateur Championship, has just thrown another grenade into the GB&I Walker Cup team selection box. Neither player was probably in the Walker Team prior to their wins. Whilst Ellis is assured of his place, because of the ‘selection rule’ concerning The Amateur, Plant’s position is not quite as clear cut. Having said that it would be a surprise to most commentators if he was to now miss out, certainly to those who witnessed yesterday’s action.

Plant has the added selection value of appearing to be a really nice lad, often with a smile on his face, who would be an experienced and welcome member of any amateur golf team. There was perhaps evidence of this when England Golf selected Alfie last week for their 6-man European Team Championship team. What seemed a debatable choice at the start of this week of course now looks like an inspired one. His entourage – he is probably the best supported amateur golfer in the world – would certainly add something to the atmosphere in Los Angeles too !

In the context of the 2017 Walker Cup a number of our leading players took the opportunity to reassert their cases with good performances. These included: –

Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – 68 70 70 66 (-14) T4
Matthew JORDAN (ENG) – 68 68 73 66 (-13) 6th
John-Ross GALBRAITH (IRE) – 75 70 66 65 (-12) T7
Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) – 72 72 66 66 (-12) T7
Sandy SCOTT (SCO) – 69 71 67 70 (-11) T10
Daniel BROWN (ENG) – 68, 73, 66 71 (-10) T13
Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) – 70 69 72 67 (-10) T13
Conor O’ROURKE (IRE) – 67 70 70 71 (-10) T13
Connor SYME (SCO) – 72 71 67 69 (-9) T17
Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) – 68 69 71 71 (-9) T17

Other notable scores by players who are in the Walker Cup squad / mix and made the 54 hole cut included: –

Owen EDWARDS (WAL) – 71 74 67 69 (-7) T26
David BOOTE (WAL) – 69 73 70 69 (-7) T26
Scott GREGORY (ENG) – 71 74 66 71 (-6) T32
Colm CAMPBELL (IRE) – 70 72 69 71 (-6) T32
Craig HOWIE (SCO) – 69 70 71 72 (-6) T32
Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – 70 72 71 70 (-5) T39
Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) – 71 72 71 71 (-3) T47
Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 69 72 72 72 (-3) T47
Robin DAWSON (IRE) – 68 73 72 72 (-3) T47
Harry ELLIS (ENG) – 71 70 72 73 (-2) T52

Just for those who have read this far….

If I had to pick the Walker Cup team today, and let’s not forget there are now no major amateur events left, save for the short field European Men’s Amateur Team Championship, where everyone will be able to play against each other, I would go for (in order) 1. Jordan, 2. Singh Brar, 3. Syme, 4. Johnston, 5. MacIntyre, 6. Boote, 7. Howie, 8. Ellis, 9. Plant and 10. McBride. For this last spot I did have to toss a coin to exclude Davidson, Dawson and Galbraith who are all still pushing hard for a spot.

For the full story on the European Amateur Championship, including Results link, take a look at my GolfBible report – The European Amateur Championship – Preview, Reports & Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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52. Wins For Josh Hilleard and Gian-Marco Petrozzi

23rd May 2017

Last weekend saw impressive wins for English pair Josh HILLEARD and Gian-Marco PETROZZI.

Josh HILLEARD won the French International Amateur at Chantilly. Having shot a final round 64 to post a -6 total he beat the young Frenchman Pierre PINEAU on the second hole of their play-off. He became the first Englishman to win this prestigious title.

HILLEARD arrived in France in good form having finished 13th in the Lytham Trophy and tied 4th in the Irish Open Amateur. We know from his exploits of last year that when he finds his game he is more than capable of putting a string of good results together and this seems to be happening again in 2017.

The French International Amateur was his fifth win in just over 12 months. To my knowledge no other GB&I player has won this many events in the same period. Of course this was by far his best career performance and he has now jumped up to 105th in the SPWAR. With Sam HORSFIELD turning Pro over the weekend he is now the 13th highest ranked GB&I player in this list.

Josh Hilleard With The Murat Cup (Photo: French Golf Federation) 

Like a few others before him this year his exclusion from the Walker Cup squad, perhaps understandable at the time, has helped to get the best out of him. He must surely now be just one Top 10 result from being a very strong candidate for a pick.

England took a team of six players to France including four Walker Cup squad members. Bradley MOORE did the best of these, albeit a disappointing final round and a tied 9th result didn’t fully reflect how well he played over the three days of competition. Here are their scores and finishing positions: –

Bradley MOORE  68 – 71 – 68 -75   -2   T9
Daniel BROWN    71 – 69                       WD in Rd 3 with a foot injury
Marco PENGE      78 – 69                 +4   MC
Alfie PLANT         74 – 76                 +8   MC

Gian-Marco PETROZZI also arrived in Wales in good form and like Hilleard was able to keep it going. He had finished 16th at Lytham and tied 16th in the Irish at Royal County Down in his previous two events.

PETROZZI has been ‘up and coming’ for a while and this was undoubtedly his breakthrough performance. Rounds of 66, 69, 70 and 74 and a -13 total took him to an impressive wire-to-wire 9-shot win.

Gian-Marco Petrozzi (Photo: Golf Union of Wales)

The Staffordshire player said in an interview reported on the England Golf website “It’s been coming. All of last season and the start of this season I’ve been playing good golf. I knew I had it in there, I just needed to prove to myself I could cross the line. I’m over the moon with this and hopefully it catches the eye of the Walker Cup selectors. That’s my goal for the end of the year and hopefully this will put my name in the hat.”

His dominant Welsh win has certainly put him on the Walker Cup radar but there are, in my view, as many as 30 players as at today still in with a shout of selection. In other words for Gian-Marco to make it he will need to keep this current run going and deliver at least one more big result between now and August.

Walker Cup squad players Jack DAVIDSON and Owen EDWARDS, as well as Scottish defending champion Barry HUME, were also in action at the Vale Resort. All did well with both Welshman finishing in the Top 5. Here are all of their scores and finishing positions: –

Jack DAVIDSON     71 – 80 – 68 – 70   -3   3rd
Owen EDWARDS   74 – 73 – 75 – 75   -1   4th
Barry HUME           74 – 73 – 75 – 75   +5  16th

Clearly DAVIDSON is moving, event by event, into that select group of Walker Cup ‘Probables’. Hopefully he can just keep ticking over between now and August to make his selection the formality it increasingly appears to be.

Click the links below to view the full results of both of these Championships: –
Welsh Open Amateur Stroke Play Results
French International Amateur (Murat Cup) Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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45. GB&I Amateur Golf Rankings – 31st March 2017

7th April 2017

The table below summarises the ranking positions of the Top 30 GB&I amateur golfers as at the end of March 2017.

The Golf Bible Combined Amateur Ranking (GBCAR), shown in the blue columns on the right, uses the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WGAR – yellow) and the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR – green) to produce a composite ranking based on the average of the two main rankings.

As I have stated before my preference is for the SPWAR, which I consider to be far more accurate and therefore useful for team selections.

The table below looks at the Top 30 GB&I players listed in the SPWAR and reviews their ranking trend for the last 12 months.

I have expressed the opinion in previous articles that Connor SYME, Robert MACINTYRE and Scott GREGORY are already as good as selected for the GB&I Team for me.

In Quarter 1 Robin DAWSON, Liam JOHNSTON and Jack DAVIDSON have stepped forward most impressively.

Other players trending well in the SPWAR Top 20 include Craig HOWIE, Stuart GREHAN, Marco PENGEAlex GLEESON, Jack SINGH BRAR, Daniel BROWN and David WICKS.

Whilst many factors go into selecting the 10 man GB&I Walker Cup team there is no question that the two world ranking lists provide an important foundation for the future discussions that will take place around the Committee table.

For more information on the Amateur Golf Rankings please click here – Golf Bible’s Rankings Page.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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39. GB&I Walker Cup Squad Announced

23rd January 2017

The R&A have today announced an initial Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 46th Walker Cup match which will take place on 9-10 September 2017 at the Los Angeles Country Club.

GB&I Captain Craig Watson said “We have identified a strong group of players who are all in contention for a place on the team and we will be monitoring their performance and results over the coming season. We will also pay close attention to the progress and form of players who have not been included in this current squad as they also have the opportunity to play their way into contention for the team selected to play the USA in September.”

The following 19 players were included in the initial squad: –

ENGLAND
Daniel BROWN (Masham, Yorkshire)
Scott GREGORY (Corthampton, Hampshire)
Bradley MOORE (Kedleston Park, Derbyshire)
Marco PENGE (Golf at Goodwood, Sussex)
Alfie PLANT (Sundridge Park, Kent)
James WALKER (Oaks, Yorkshire)

IRELAND
Colm CAMPBELL (Warrenpoint, County Down)
Alex GLEESON (Castle, Dublin)
Stuart GREHAN (Tullamore, County Offaly)
Paul MCBRIDE (The Island, Dublin)
Conor O’ROURKE (Naas, County Kildare)

SCOTLAND
Craig HOWIE (Peebles, Borders)
Barry HUME (Haggs Castle, Glasgow)
Robert MACINTYRE (Glencruitten, Argyll & Bute)
Craig ROSS (Kirkhill, Lanarkshire)
Sandy SCOTT (Nairn, Nairnshire)
Connor SYME (Drumoig, Fife)

WALES
David BOOTE (Walton Heath, Surrey)
Owen EDWARDS (Llanwern, Newport)

The current rankings of the selected players are shown in the table below: –

As the above rankings clearly show the GB&I Team would have been much stronger with Sam HORSFIELD in it. However, his exclusion makes clear he is intending to turn Pro shortly after the US College season ends and certainly before the match in September. It’s a shame he couldn’t hang on a little longer – his golfing CV will be all the poorer for having never played in the Walker Cup.

On 23rd January 2015 a 20-man squad was announced for the Royal Lytham match. This included Bradley NEIL (SCO), Ashley CHESTERS (ENG), Grant FORREST (SCO), Sam HORSFIELD (ENG), Nick MARSH (ENG), Gavin MOYNIHAN (IRE), Paul HOWARD (ENG), Ben STOW (ENG), Paul DUNNE (IRE), Jack HUME (IRE), Jamie SAVAGE (SCO), Gary HURLEY (IRE), Adam CHAPMAN (ENG), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Cormac SHARVIN (IRE), Jimmy MULLEN (ENG), Tomasz ANDERSON (ENG), Daniel BROWN (ENG), Graeme ROBERTSON (SCO) and David BOOTE (WAL). As you can see from the names highlighted above only Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) was able to break into this group and that only came about when Sam Horsfield withdrew.

Whilst the rankings mean little in the heat of match play golf the task facing GB&I later this year is emphasised by the fact that the United States currently has 9 players in the Top 20 of both the SPWAR and WAGR.

I had been unsure as to whether a GB&I Walker Cup Squad would be announced for the 2017 match.  Whilst Past Captain Nigel Edwards had announced one ahead of the 2015 home match at Royal Lytham he had previously been dismissive of a Squad for the 2013 away match at the National Golf links of America.

Speaking in 2013 Edwards said: “We’re not picking a squad this year simply because it works well when the match is played here, but with the match being in America there is no point bringing guys together to play a golf course that would bear no resemblance to the real thing. As for traveling over there for a site visit with them, the schedule is so busy that it’s almost impossible to get the guys together, especially with some players in college golf. Besides, often we would pick a squad in the past, and some of the guys would turn professional and drop out. Others playing in college golf would not be named in the original squad, then would play well in the winter and would look conspicuous by their absence from the squad.”

GB&I squads, with team gatherings in the build up to the match, were first introduced in 1995 to try and arrest a series of losses. The improved team spirit and better prepared foursome pairings have contributed to an upturn in GB&I fortunes over the last 20 years.

With no team practice sessions announced by The R&A today one may question what new Captain Craig Watson has got out of showing his hand in this way. Of course it provides some match PR and enables us to see how our leading players react to their inclusion or exclusion. Despite this I am sure their will be some informal dinners ahead of the Lytham Trophy and / or Brabazon Trophy events to start the team building.

For away matches, like Nigel Edwards suggested, I think it may be better to leave any formal statements until the actual team announcement. Then gather a little earlier so that more preparation is done immediately before the match. With the US Amateur Championship being played literally down the road in Los Angeles a few weeks before the Walker Cup the golfing calendar would certainly have appeared to suit this approach in 2017.

Either way with a GB&I Squad now announced the match is very much on the horizon. I am certainly looking forward to following the twists and turns of selection over the next 7 months.

Today’s full R&A announcement can be read here – ‘R&A Announce GB&I Walker Cup Squad’

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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18. The 2016 European Amateur Championship

10th August 2016

The 30th European Amateur Championship, a 72-hole stroke play event, was contested between 3rd – 6th August on the 7,100 yards Sea Course at the Estonia Golf & Country Club.

Italy’s Luca CIANCHETTI beat Norway’s Viktor HOVLAND on the seventh play-off hole to win this prestigious competition. Luca wins a nice trophy but more importantly an invitation to compete in next year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Luca Cianchetti Euro Mens Amateur 2016

Luca Cianchetti (Photo: Italian Golf Federation)

Once again from a Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective Scotland’s Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) -13 and Connor SYME (SCO) -12 rose to the top, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) is now also starting to show up regularly; he finished an impressive T9 on -9.

In total 37 GB&I players started the European Men’s Amateur Championship. In addition to the above the following 15 players had a good week making the Top 60 54-hole cut in a strong field: –
T13 Andrew WILSON (ENG)-8
T13 Craig ROSS (SCO) -8
T17 Ben AMOR (ENG) -7
T17 Daniel BROWN (ENG) -7
T17 Grant FORREST (SCO) -7
T26 Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) -5
T26 Stuart GREHAN (IRE) -5
T26 Sandy SCOTT (SCO) -5
T35 Matthew JORDAN (ENG) -4
T35 George BLOOR (ENG) -4
T44 Alex GLEESON (IRE) -2
T50 Marco PENGE (ENG) -1
T50 James WALKER (ENG) -1
T54 Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) Ev
T54 Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +1

Click here to review the complete final results from Estonia – 2016 European Amateur Championship Live Scores

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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9. England v. France – 14 /15 May 2016 – Preview & Results

15th May 2016

England defeated France 14-10 at Formby Golf Club in a hard fought contest played in near perfect conditions.

England v France May 2016

The English Team Celebrate Their Victory Over France (Photo: GolfBible)

The following table shows the Individual Contributions of all of the England team members.  Scott Gregory and Josh Hilleard enjoyed impressive W3 / H0 / L1 records and given their two Singles performances were joined by Bradley Moore and Alfie Plant as England’s star men this weekend.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 22.31.27

In what was an impressive performance against a reasonable French side it was pleasing to see each member of the team contribute at least a point to the win.

Grégoire Schoeb and Victor Veyret stood out for the French and certainly can take no blame for their team’s defeat.

ME.

8th May 2016

Any Home Nation team match needs to be studied carefully. Selection, pairings and performance all provide useful information.

Every year England play Spain or France in biennial international amateur team matches.

Last year England beat Spain 19-11 at Burnham & Berrow G.C. in Somerset. This victory, for the first time contested as a mixed match, extended their winning record against Spain to 14-2. Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen, who went on to play in the 2015 Walker Cup, starred for England winning all four of their matches.

This year it’s the turn of France who England will take on at Formby G.C., Lancashire, on 14th-15th May. The match against France dates back to 1934 with England leading the series 28-5.

Four foursomes and eight singles will be contested on each day.

The French team will consist of Edgar Catherine, Ugo Coussaud, Andoni Etchenique, Jeong Weon Ko, Adrien Pendaries, Pierre Pineau, Grégoire Schoeb and Victor Veyret.

On 3rd May England confirmed their 8-man team:-

Jamie Bower (23) – Meltham G.C., Yorkshire
Jamie has risen up the world rankings in 2016 after a successful early season tour of South Africa where he won both the Gauteng North Amateur and the Southern Cape Open. He was also third in the African Open.

Scott Gregory (21) – Corhampton G.C., Hampshire
Scott was runner-up in the 2016 Spanish Amateur and helped England win the Costa Ballena Quadrangular tournament earlier this season.

Josh Hilleard (21) – Farrington Park G.C, Somerset
Josh is in great form having already won the West of England Championship, the Berkhamsted Trophy, the Faldo Series Wales Championship and the Hampshire Salver in 2016. He was also in England’s winning team at the Costa Ballena Quadrangular Tournament. He was also awarded the Southern Golf Association’s Amateur of the Month Award for April 2016 just prior to the match.

Paul Kinnear (22) – Formby G.C., Lancashire
Paul represented England on their tour of South Africa earlier this season and will hopefully bring some home course knowledge to the Team.

Bradley Moore (18) – Kedleston Park G.C., Derbyshire
Bradley was joint runner-up in the Lytham Trophy earlier this month and helped Europe beat Asia Pacific in the 2016 Bonallack Trophy.

Alfie Plant (23) – Sundridge Park G.C., Kent
Alfie won the 2016 Lytham Trophy by 7-shots and toured South Africa with England earlier this year.

Ashton Turner (20) – Kenwick Park, Lincolnshire
Ashton helped Europe beat Asia Pacific in the Bonallack Trophy and toured Australia with England earlier this season.

James Walker (22) – The Oaks G.C., Yorkshire
James has been in good form this year winning the Selborne Salver and reaching the semi-finals of the Spanish Amateur championship, unluckily losing to eventual champion Romain Langasque on the 19th hole following a series of chip-ins from the Frenchman. He was 6th at the Lytham Trophy.

It’s difficult to argue with the above selection.

Marco Penge is the most obvious omission but as he celebrates his 18th birthday on 15th May he probably asked not to be considered.  Marco has also been ploughing his own furrow this year playing in both the PGA EuroPro Tour Q-School and Junior Invitational at Sage Valley recently instead of more obvious GB&I  amateur events; the Lytham Trophy being his most obvious miss.

Jonathan Thomson has been recovering from a back injury for a few months. Daniel BrownAdam ChapmanRyan CornfieldJJ Grey, Sam HorsfieldAndrew Wilson and Jack Yule may also have been discussed by the selectors but are either finishing off the US College season or probably need a few more results to break in to the current 2016 England Men’s Team.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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